Major nations ‘moving backwards’ on humanities citations

THE data show research influence in arts and humanities is declining in several countries, but many nations still progress overall

October 2, 2019
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The full results of the THE World University Rankings 2020 by subject: arts and humanities

Several major higher education nations are moving backwards on citation impact in arts and humanities subjects, according to an analysis of latest Times Higher Education data.

The 2020 THE arts and humanities subject ranking reveals that Australia, Canada, China, Germany, the UK and the US have all declined in this measure over the past year, both in terms of the average citation impact score of the institutions in the table and the individual performance of top universities.

For example, UK universities’ average citation impact score in this year’s ranking was 60.2, down from 64.4 last year, while Canada achieved a score of 54.3, down from 57.3.

In terms of individual institutions, the citation impact score for Australia’s University of Melbourne dropped by 3.4 points to 58.1, for instance, while the score for Germany’s University of Tübingen fell by 14.2 points to 67.7.

Citation impact is a measure of research influence and quality and accounts for 15 per cent of institutions’ overall score in the arts and humanities table, down from 30 per cent in the overall THE World University Rankings, to reflect the fact that arts and humanities research typically receives much lower citation counts than science research. The metric captures the average number of times a university’s published work is cited by scholars globally, normalised by subject area.

However, despite declines in this area, many universities in Australia, Canada, China and the UK improved overall since last year’s ranking.  

In Australia, for instance, the University of Sydney climbed six places to 41st, following improvements to its teaching environment and international outlook scores, while the University of Queensland and Macquarie University join the top 100 of the table.

Of the UK’s 21 universities in the top 100, 14 have a higher rank since last year, while China has three institutions in the top 100 of the ranking for the first time.  

Meanwhile, several nations have higher average scores for industry income per academic staff member in arts and humanities subjects.

Australia’s average score in this area rises from 54.0 to 56.3, while Germany’s score increases from 58.8 to 60.8. Canada and China also made progress in this area.  

However, this growth tends to be driven by a small number of universities in these countries registering big gains, rather than system-wide improvements.


Print headline: Elites ‘moving backwards’ on humanities citation impact

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